Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Motion No. 7, the amendment put forward by the Reform Party.
Why is commons sense usually the first victim when we give consideration to change? I have stood in the House on more occasions than I wish to count and have seen that basic common sense becomes a trade-off between positive ideas for change and partisan politics.
Canada has reached a crossroads. Our fiscal situation has prompted a country wide debate on the state of our social security programs. Our safety net is financially unsustainable and many of the programs reflect waste and disturbing inefficiencies which will ultimately hurt the very people these programs were meant to help.
Motion No. 7 is one we believe can make the system more accountable. Accountability is one of the basic planks on which I was elected. I made a promise to constituents that all of my analysis, all of the efforts and work undertaken on their behalf would reflect that commitment to accountability.
There are many occasions in the House when all of us receive letters from constituents who write to us from their heart about expenditures and the danger to the basic structure of our social programs. When I get these letters I know why I am here challenging the government, demanding accountability on behalf of the Canadians we represent and using common sense in the deliberations we debate.
I received a letter from a lady named Irene in February of this year. Irene wants some answers to some very basic questions. She writes from her heart. She asks about accountability: "Dear member of Parliament, I am a senior citizen who is proud to call myself Canadian. However, I have become more and more concerned with the handling of our budget by our government. I have decided to participate in the process by writing this open letter to all members of Parliament regardless of party affiliation to communicate my concern over what I and many of my friends and family see as utter waste regarding unrealistic expectations and greed and total absence of conscience for the spending of public money".
She is doing what I would call her political work, participating in the process. She goes on to say: "I have been elected spokesperson by my group of friends, hence the lengthy list of suggested budgetary cuts. By cutting the following expenses we can perhaps cut less from programs that we have supported with our many years of hard work and money. Although these are but basic and straightforward budget cuts, surely the more unpalatable cuts will be seen less as another blow to the ordinary Canadian if it is perceived that all expenses are open to scrutiny".
What she is asking for is accountability. She goes on to list two pages full of cuts she believes would be appropriate and useful for government to take under consideration. Something in her last point I found quite interesting: "Why not increase the resources of the auditor general to find waste and duplication which they manage to find every year?" I thought that was appropriate to bring into the debate today since we are looking at our estimates: "However, rather than just report it, why not increase the personnel so that follow-up action may be taken? Every year we hear about all the waste and duplication in different government departments. However, once the report is made public, is that all there is? Is there any follow-up and/or guidance for the guilty parties?"
Irene once again is simply seeking accountability.
In Motion No. 7, which is basic common sense, we are trying to bring accountability to that system so that we can say to Irene: "Yes indeed, there is follow up to government waste. There is follow up to issues and problems as they arise within the bureaucracy".
Having said that, I want to go through the point that Motion No. 7 refers to because it is important to have for the record a very common sense motion that reflects the values of the Reform Party.
The motion calls for the minister to make a report to the House on where overpayments in CPP and OAS were made and at what cost to the Canadian taxpayer. That comment is very much reflected in Irene's letter to me. It is basic information about the government's bottom line. The report will then be studied by a parliamentary committee made up of representatives of the people who have entrusted us to make decisions based on the Canadian taxpayers' best interests with compassion and to do that with transparency.
The committee and not the bureaucrats will decide what the minister can or cannot remit next year. It will make recommendations on where and how to reduce the cost to the Canadian people in overpayment. That is just and fair.
If this motion is adopted, it will return accountability to where it belongs, in Parliament and not in the hands of the minister or senior bureaucrats of the department where everything is done behind closed doors. Let not the momentum of mediocrity continue to plague the actions of the House as we move toward change and become openly and completely accountable to the Canadian people.